Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book with a range between a 2.5 and 4.5. Additionally, one member gave the book a 2.0. The average of the ratings was 3.25.
The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 2.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.99.
The facilitator told the members that the author has several degrees which assisted her in writing historical fiction. Chanel Cleeton has degrees in International Relations, Global Politics, and a Juris Doctor. In addition, Cleeton grew up in Miami, Florida. She is a second generation Cuban-American who learned to speak Spanish before she spoke English. Since childhood, she heard stories about Cuba. She participated in the Cuban traditions and frequently ate Cuban food.
This novel created a lively discussion. The facilitator did not have to ask many questions. The discussion covered the following themes; hope and exile, family expectations, and sacrifice. The discussion included talking about the similarities and differences between Elisa & Marisol and Pablo & Luis. We discussed the parallels between life in modern Cuba and life in pre-revolutionary Cuba. We discussed the attraction between Elisa & Pablo and Marisol & Luis. We discussed whether or not Elisa and Pablo’s love was fueled by the urgency of the times.
One member had recently travelled to Cuba and shared photos of her journey. She shared her impressions of modern Cuba. The group thanked her for sharing!
Members loved the author’s descriptions of the Cuban landscape and architecture. The facilitator told the members that Reese Witherspoon selected this novel for her book club, Hello Sunshine. Reese Witherspoon said she felt she took a vacation when she read this book. Many members enjoyed both the historical fiction portions and the romance portions of the novel.
Members enjoyed the heavily researched part of the book. Many members learned a lot about Cuba in 1958-59 and present day Cuba.
One member submitted a character list prior to the groups reading the novel and everyone was thankful for the list. A few members were very interested in what would happen next to several minor characters. They wished the author included this information, but understood the book would have been too long and too tidy. One member thought the author did a great job defining the characters considering the plethora of them.
Three members enjoyed Next Year in Havana so much; they read Cleeton’s next novel, When We Left Cuba. These three members enjoyed this second novel. This novel features Beatriz Perez, a character introduced in Next Year in Havana. Most members do not plan on recommending this novel to others and they will not be reading When We Left Cuba.
Members enjoyed the storyline and found it a painless way to learn about Cuban history.
The facilitator thought the author was insightful in the way she created the revolutionary character using a nuance approach.
Several members thought the author included too many characters. Members found the plot very contrived, but understand this is a fictional novel and the author worked on creating a connection between the characters from both time-lines. Several members stated they did not like the romance part of the novels. The facilitator told the members that the author started as a romance writer and evolved her writing to include history and politics. The author has said that she will probably always include romance in her books, as romance is very much a part of life.
Regarding the historical elements of the novel, several members thought Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire did a better job of conveying life in Cuba under Fidel Castro. However, Waiting for Snow in Havana is a nonfiction book and therefore is probably more obligated to be accurate. Members agreed that Next Year in Havana covered a larger timeframe.
Facilitator’s Favorite Quote:
“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”—Chanel Cleeton
For books and audiobooks in our collection by Chanel Cleeton, please click here.
Visit Chanel Cleeton’s website.
Chanel Cleeton talks about her heritage and Next Year in Havana:
A photographic tour of Old Havana in Cuba in 2018: